What more can be said about those hallowed halls of the PERRO sessions? A musical who’s who of the upper echelon of San Francisco at the height of its power. Every cornerstone of the scene was represented in the assemblage, but the ship was helmed by two wayward voyagers—pushing the outer expanses of musical ideation. Often omitted from the varied bootlegs and official releases culled from the sessions, an unsuspecting bit of guitar minimalism would finally see the light of day in 2006. With the deluxe reissue of David Crosby’s magnum opus If I Could Only Remember My Name, “Kids and Dogs” was unearthed for the masses.
At a base level, the chemistry between David Crosby and Jerry Garcia seems obvious. Both were laid-back frontmen with a public aloofness that belied the extent to which they pulled the strings behind their respective operations. The album as a whole would not be possible without the contributions of all involved, but it can’t be denied that the visions of these two pioneers of the psychedelic frontier overlapped in just enough ways that propelled the project into the masterwork that it remains today. Naturally, “Kids and Dogs”—recorded with just the two of them — upholds the majesty of the album from which it was harvested and possibly offers the clearest picture of Crosby’s vision concerning his debut solo effort. The same easygoing ethos creeps into the affair and with the layers of other players and ideas stripped away, we are left with the primal essence of what Crosby was trying to show us. As a standalone piece, it operates as a testament to the creative prowess of the two trailblazers that realized it.
Croz once more displays that his voice – the finest of any counterculture rambler – is its own instrument. The song has no words (like nearly the entire back half of If I Could Only Remember My Name) but showcases Crosby belting into the universe, self-harmonized, and sounding remarkably like Garcia’s own pedal steel work that graces the album. There is a spontaneous feel to the whole occasion, with Crosby running through scales as Jerry strums through the same chord, adding a little flair for texture, but remaining a stable anchor as Crosby’s chorale of his own making drifts away.
Always regarded as a spearhead throughout his entire career, it can be easy to forget that Garcia happens to make one of the best sidemen out there. A list of his session credits and guest appearances, always gracious to not overstep any boundaries or ruffle the feathers of the main attractions, shows that the greats always know to get in where they fit in. And this is exactly the Jerry that shows up, not only on “Kids and Dogs,” but throughout his work across the whole record. And laying low doesn’t have to mean holding back. As the songs crosses the halfway point, Jerry is given his moment to shine. In typical Garcia fashion we are given a tease of a solo (on acoustic guitar), before the electric is picked up and the whole thing lets loose amid crystalline triads that seem to spring up from the echoes of Crosby’s wordless incantations. An acoustic solo resumes to see us out. The atmosphere, despite heavy vocal production, manages to keep the feeling of nothing more than an informal jam between friends. If those two buddies just so happen to be some of the best to ever lay sounds to tape. | j rooney